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#1 Mar 20, 2018 3:10 pm

New Historian

A hot landing in Botswana

Gaborone International Airport.

On the morning of 11th October, 1999 pilot Christopher Phatswe walked into the operations room, said good morning, took the keys to one of the company’s ATR turboprops, walked out to the waiting plane, and took off.

The only problem was: he wasn’t supposed to. Pilot Phatswe had been undergoing health challenges of late (having just been diagnosed with a serious condition), and just the previous evening had been grounded by the airline on the grounds of mental instability. By the time most staff members realized what was happening, he was already in the air. He radioed the tower and demanded to speak to Botswana’s President Festus Mogae, or else he would crash the plane in downtown Gaborone. Which immediately became clogged with thousands of people fleeing the city.

All attempts to talk down the distraught pilot failed, and with fuel running low he guided his aircraft directly into the company’s other two ATRs parked on the apron, fully fueled for the day’s operations. All were instantly incinerated. I knew the manager, he was really shaken up by the incident.


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